Category Archives: Study Abroad

Emily Townley in Perugia, Italy

Emily Townley ’20 in Switzerland

Emily Townley is one of the three psychology students who studied in Perugia, Italy last semester. During her study abroad experience, she was able to travel to Switzerland and Venice, engage Italian school children in English language learning through fun games during her class’s field trip, go paragliding, eat some truly delicious food, meet some incredible people, and all around have a fantastic experience abroad (except for that one trip to the hospital in the beginning). Read on to learn more about her experience abroad. Enjoy!

To start off, can you tell me a little about you?

I am a Psychology major with an Art History minor. I’m in the Honors Program and part of Psi Chi. I’m originally from Richmond, Virginia.

Where did you study abroad? Why did you choose to study there and what was it like? Was it different from what you were expecting?

I studied abroad in Perugia, Italy. If the name sounds familiar to you, it might be because the Amanda Knox trial happened there. Luckily no drama like that occurred while I was there.

I never planned on studying abroad in Italy. In fact, I was looking more at Northern European countries like the Netherlands or Denmark since I had already been to Italy. However, when I saw that the Umbra Institute (the school I studied at) offered a multicultural psychology program, I began considering it more seriously. After looking up pictures of the gorgeous town, I decided that this was where I was meant to be.

Overall, Perugia met my expectations of being a charming, Italian hilltop town. If I had to pick a way that it was different from what I was expecting, it was much livelier than I expected it to be. When I had gone to Italy before, my favorite places were the smaller towns like Siena, rather than the hustle and bustle of cities like Rome. However, I did fear that Perugia would get to be too quiet and I would begin to get stir crazy. That never happened though! The hardest part of the small-town life was that if I ever wanted to fly somewhere, it was a three-hour train ride to the airport, but I got used to that.

What were some of your favorite moments while abroad?

One of my favorite moments while abroad was when my friends and I went to lunch in Cortona, Italy. Cortona was only an hour train ride away from Perugia, so it was a great opportunity to see some of Tuscany (also one of my friends loves the movie Under the Tuscan Sun which takes place there).

It was about 2:00 pm when we arrived which was a bit late for lunch in Italy and we were very hungry, so we just went to the first place that was still open. And what a place it was! When we first sat down, we were given fresh prosecco which immediately clued us in that this was no ordinary restaurant. After ordering, we were then brought fresh, warm bread rolls and then a small, artfully plated bowl of pea soup. Our entrees were then brought out and none of us could talk because we were just so amazed at how good the food was. Finally, we ordered dessert which was the grand finale of our fabulous meal. I ordered an apple pastry which was presented inside of a chocolate dome which then had melted chocolate poured on top of it to reveal the pasty in the shape of a rose. At this point, our friends and I were almost screaming in delight. The rest of our day we couldn’t stop talking about how surprising the meal was and how it was the best dining experience we had ever had.

Paragliding in Switzerland

Another one of my favorite moments happened during my solo trip to Switzerland. I had wanted to go see the Alps for a very long time but had tried to keep a realistic mindset that I might not make it out there while abroad. Flights were expensive and my schedule was already busy; I figured it was a lost cause. However, the planets aligned in the end, and though I had to go alone, I managed to find some train tickets that would take me to a town right in the heart of the Swiss Alps: Interlaken. While there were many magical moments that happened while I was there, like watching the sunset from the Harderkulm and paragliding, probably the most striking moment was when I was in the mountain top town, Mürren. It’s only accessible by cable car which made it feel like it was almost out of a fairy tale because of the lack of cars. It’s hard to describe exactly how it felt to be so high up in the mountains and to see the snow-capped summits of the Alps in person. In some ways, it was the most peaceful I’ve ever felt.

What were you most worried about in terms of studying abroad?

Honestly, I was very scared about not making friends. I went to camp for three weeks every summer when I was younger and never really connected with anyone despite going for five years. I was very nervous the same thing would happen again, except this time I would be stranded in a different country for four months with no one to hang out with. Luckily, those fears were unfounded! I formed some great friendships while I was abroad with some wonderful people that I hope I get to travel with again in the future.

Did anything happen that you weren’t expecting? Were there any moments that particularly struck you while abroad? Tell me about them.

There was certainly one thing that happened that I was not expecting. That would have to be my five-day stint in the hospital my first week there. I arrived on Friday and by Wednesday I found myself in an Italian ER with a stabbing pain in my side. That pain turned out to be a kidney stone! Once I was in the hospital and on pain medicine it wasn’t as scary anymore but [everything] leading up to that point was quite stressful. My mom was ready to drop a few thousand dollars to fly over to be with me (and thank God she didn’t). The care I received in the hospital was phenomenal and I was lucky enough to have another girl in my study abroad program there with me for some of the time so I wasn’t alone (she had a seizure on the bus ride from the airport :O).

What did you learn while abroad? This is not limited to just coursework (though certainly talk about the types of courses you were able to take) but also about the culture or cultures you interacted with and, cheesy as it is, yourself as well.

Something that makes the Umbra Institute different from some other study abroad programs was their emphasis on the “study” portion of the phrase. For many people, they would find this annoying, and I definitely did at times too when I just wanted to travel, but I couldn’t because I had an Italian exam or another field trip to Assisi. However, I’d say it was definitely beneficial in the end. It has made the transition back into Roanoke a little smoother because it’s not like I took a whole semester off.  Also, all the classes I took were really interesting and taught me a lot! I took two art history courses to go towards my minor and two psychology courses to go towards my major. While the art history courses were interesting in their own right, I’ll just talk about the psych courses considering this is a psychology blog post.

Left-to-right: friend, Dr. Kessenich, and Emily Townley

The two courses were Human Development in Culture and Criminal Behavior. They were both taught by a wonderful professor, Doris Kessenich, who was a joy to learn from given her experience in the fields she was teaching. Our class sizes were very small (maybe eight people) so they would be extremely discussion based, which normally would worry me, but I just felt so comfortable in her classes that I participated a lot. We even took a surprisingly fun field trip to an Italian middle school as part of the Human Development class where we got to help the kids with their English skills by playing games like Heads Up.

On a more personal level, I learned to be a lot more independent. Before studying abroad, I had concluded there was no way I would ever travel by myself. My friend, Becca, had studied abroad the semester before in Spain and had sworn by traveling by herself, but the prospect scared me. I was worried I would get lost or miss a connecting train or flight or a multitude of other world ending catastrophes. But, when push came to shove, my desire to travel to Switzerland outweighed any of my previous fears. And when everything went smoothly in Switzerland, I found myself doing it again to go to Venice on my own. While there were definitely some aspects of traveling alone that annoyed me (mainly not having anyone to take pictures of me at sites so having to rely on strangers/selfie sticks/self-timers), there were also some huge upsides! I got to make my own schedule, got to decide exactly what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it, and I was able to make more spontaneous decisions that I could never make when traveling with other people.

What do you miss the most?

The ease of travel is definitely something I miss a lot. Things are a lot cheaper in Europe, more efficient, and closer together. For just $50 and about five hours of your time, you could find yourself in a completely different country and culture. Back home, you could drive for five hours and still be in Virginia.

I also miss the friends I made abroad. Luckily, my program was for American students, so all my friends live in the U.S., but we’re still pretty far out. Just in my friend group there was someone from California and another from Minnesota, so it will be hard to see them in person in the future. Thank God for technology though!

One last thing I definitely miss is this pasta I would get all the time in Perugia. It was called Pasta alla Norcina and I always got it at this one restaurant called Ferrari. While there were many other delicious foods I had while abroad, this will definitely be what I miss the most, especially because it was a specialty to the area.

Tell me about your plans for the future. How will you apply what you learned while abroad to help you?

In my Human Culture in Development class we learned about the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity. My final paper for the class, I wrote about how I believed I developed along this model. By the end of my study abroad experience I believe I had reached the Adaption stage, which is when one is able to behave and think in ways that are in line with the new culture. In other words, I think I learned how to be more culturally sensitive and how to adapt better when in other cultures. In the future I hope to find my opportunities to travel and I hope that I can be able to adapt more easily to new cultures because of my time abroad.

Do you have any advice for other students interested in studying abroad?

Don’t be afraid to travel on your own. Making friends isn’t as scary as you think because everyone is nervous about making friends, just be yourself and you’ll find your crew. It might depend on the program, but remember it is called study abroad so be prepared to actually do some schoolwork. Savor every moment, it goes by faster than you think.

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A Longer Look: Alina Marino ’20 in Perugia, Italy

As a follow-up to the previous article “A Quick Look: Alina Marino in Perugia, Italy” , Marino ’20 expands on her experiences studying in Italy in the fall of 2018. In addition to describing some of her favorite experiences, she also provides advice for those looking to study abroad in the future. In particular, Marino discusses the importance of finding a country that most closely aligns with your personality, lifestyle, and habits; she also discusses her experiences with culture shock.  

To start off, can you tell me a little about you?

I am a junior with a double major in psychology and criminal justice. I am from Long Island, NY. I am a member of Psi Chi, Alpha Phi Sigma, and Xi Theta Chi. I am also a sister of Alpha Sigma Alpha.

Where did you study abroad? Why did you choose to study there and what was it like? Was it different from what you were expecting?

I studied abroad in Perugia, Italy. I chose the country of Italy for my studies because I had previously taken Italian for six years and wanted to be able to improve my speaking skills. I specifically chose Perugia because out of the places in Italy to study abroad that Roanoke works with, the Umbra Institute (in Perugia) had the best options for psychology classes.

Italy is a beautiful country. It is one of those places you can feel how old everything is. The culture and way of life there is extremely laid-back. It was a little different than I expected, since I did not realize how regional everything is. For example, in Umbria (the region I was in), you can basically only find traditional Umbrian food. Pride in your specific region is a huge part of Italian culture.

What were some of your favorite moments while abroad?

As someone with a deep appreciation for food and cooking, most of my favorite memories revolve around food. My favorite memory is when my best friend Hayley and I took a weekend trip to Bologna. Bologna is known in Italy as one of the best places to eat, so I was very excited. Compared to other cities in Italy, like Rome or Venice,

Bologna is less of a tourist destination. It was less crowded than some of the other places I visited so I felt like I was really able to get more of a “true” Italian experience. We spent the weekend eating regional food, drinking the local wine, and exploring the city.

What were you most worried about in terms of studying abroad?

I was mainly worried about how much I would miss my friends and family.

Did anything happen that you weren’t expecting? Were there any moments that particularly struck you while abroad? Tell me about them.

I did not expect to have culture shock as bad as I did. I had looked into Italian culture, but it still did not prepare me as much as I would have liked. Before going away, I didn’t really think culture shock was that big of a deal, but it is. I am a very type “A” person and that does not really work in a place where you live life day-to-day and carefree.

What did you learn while abroad? This is not limited to just coursework (though certainly talk about the types of courses you were able to take) but also about the culture or cultures you interacted with and, cheesy as it is, yourself as well.

While abroad, I took three psychology courses; organizational behavior, human development in culture, and criminal behavior. My OB class was taught by an American that had been living in Italy for over ten years. It was interesting to see his perception of OB from a multicultural lens. My other two courses were taught by a German that had been living in Italy for over twenty-five years. Her view of development in culture was intriguing because she had multiple cultural backgrounds that were blended into one.

The biggest thing I learned about myself is that I will not step out of my comfort zone if I do not need to. I already had somewhat of an idea that I was like this but being in a completely new country helped to reinforce this.

What do you miss the most?

The food! Hands down.

Tell me about your plans for the future. How will you apply what you learned while abroad to help you?

My plans for the future are to go to graduate school for forensic psychology. Studying abroad did not change or impact this decision. However, studying abroad did solidify that I will be living in America. Being in Italy made me realize how grateful I am to live in America.

Do you have any advice for other students interested in studying abroad?

My advice to students studying abroad is to know yourself – look into various countries and see what you think would work best with your personality. Don’t just study abroad in a place because everyone says it is beautiful (that’s where you go vacation!!). By picking a country that values the same things you do, I think it would help alleviate some of the culture shock you may experience. Do not feel guilty that you aren’t having the “most amazing time” like everyone claims to have. Everyone is different and your feelings about the experience – good, bad, somewhere in between – are still valid and acceptable.

Something I personally did when I was feeling down is remind myself of the amazing opportunity I had. Living in a different country is something not a lot of people can say they have done. Even if in the moment you are miserable, you will be able to look back fondly on your time and how much you have grown as an individual.

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A Quick Look: Alina Marino in Perugia, Italy

Student Alina Marino, a Psychology and Criminal Justice major, briefly discusses the highlights of her experiences studying abroad in Perugia, Italy below. 

Image result for perugia italy

Name: Alina Marino

Where I studied: Perugia, Italy

Courses: Human Development in Culture, Organizational Behavior, Criminal Behavior [to name a few].

Favorite memory: My best friend and I studied abroad together so there are a lot of memories to choose from! However, I would have to say the best time I had is when we took a girls trip to Bologna, Italy. We spent the weekend tasting the local delicacies and touring the beautiful city.Related image

Application: One of my professors abroad is a Forensic Psychologist, which is the field I would like to get into. She was able to tell me personally some of the daily tasks forensic psychologists do which was helpful to me.

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Thank you to Alina for giving us a brief look into your experience abroad! It sounds like you had an incredible time in Italy. 

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A Brief Interview with Vanessa Pearson ’21, A Gilman Scholarship Recipient!

A student assistant recently interviewed Vanessa Pearson ’21, a Gilman Scholarship recipient, on her plans for studying abroad this upcoming Spring semester and what the application process for the Gilman was like. 

To start off, can you tell me a little about yourself? 

I am a sophomore here at Roanoke. I am majoring in Psychology and Education with a concentration in Human Development. I am originally from Franklin County, VA, about forty minutes away from Salem. On campus, I am a part of Colleges Against Cancer and Habitat for Humanity. Off campus, I work a part time job as a waitress/cook/manager at a restaurant in my hometown. I also play rec volleyball in my free time.

Congratulations on receiving the Gilman Scholarship! Can you tell me a little about program, what the application process was like, and where you are going to be studying?

I am going through an international student exchange program to Australia. I will be studying at James Cook University in Queensland. The application process for James Cook University was surprisingly easy. I did not have to write any admission papers on anything like that. I think the hardest part about that application was trying to figure out what classes I wanted to take since they had to go on the application so that they could get approved. 

The application for the Gilman Scholarship was a little more complex. There were a bunch of different parts to it. The biggest part of the Gilman was the essay section. You needed to have two essays explaining why you are a good candidate for it and what will you do to promote the Gilman and study abroad if you receive it.

What drew you to studying abroad in Australia?

I am not one hundred percent sure what drew me to studying in Australia. I was at a study abroad meeting and Dr. Boggs-Parker was going over all of the different places you could study [and] when she said Australia it clicked. [I felt like] that was it, that was where I needed to go.

Also, the warmer weather doesn’t hurt.

Another part of me going to Australia is that I want to work in the education system. I thought it would be really interesting to see how education works on a different side of the globe. I also needed to go somewhere that I would be able to understand what others are saying since I would not be studying a language while abroad.

What are you the most excited about in terms of studying abroad (both in general and specific to Australia)?

I am excited to experience something new. I am a commuter at Roanoke, so I [want] to [know] what it feels like to live on campus. I am also excited to travel around the world.

In terms of sightseeing, I really want to go to the Great Barrier Reef and also hike around several places. I am excited to make new friendships and I really want to pet a kangaroo and hold a koala bear.

What courses are you most interested in taking while there?

I am really excited about taking Modern Australian History. I think that it is cool that I will be learning about history through the eyes of a different country. I am also excited to take my education class because I want to see and learn from different education systems.

What advice would you have for those interested in applying to competitive scholarships/grants like Gilman?

I would say do not wait until the last minute. Start the application process as soon as possible; have someone read over your draft and, for lack of better words, tear it apart. I wrote four drafts before making small corrections to the final one. I would also go through the application and make sure you are not going to have any last-minute questions [to complete] before the deadline, that way you can ensure they are answered.

Is there anything else you would like add?

The only thing that I would add is that there is always hope for getting a scholarship you want. Write your application with purpose and meaning. Also, get Dr. Rosti to read over your application, that woman is a saint.

Thank you, Vanessa, for taking time to answer our questions! We know you will have a fantastic time studying abroad and hope you will share some of your favorite memories upon returning to campus next school year (including petting kangaroos and holding koalas)!

For those interested in learning more about the Gilman Scholarship, click on the logo below to go to their official website.

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An Interview with Thompson ’19

What is your name, class year, and your majors/minors/concentrations?

My name is Becca Thompson and I am a senior. I will be graduating with a major in Psychology and concentration in Human Development. I also have minors in Spanish and Sociology.

Where did you study abroad?

I studied abroad in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

What was your favorite moment while abroad?

My favorite moments while abroad (because they are tied!!) would be going to an All Blacks Rugby game, skydiving from 17,000 feet over the gorgeous Lake Taupo, and exploring the only active marine volcano in New Zealand on an island named White Island or Whakaari.

What were you most worried about in terms of studying abroad?

I was worried about being literally on the other side of the world from my family (Maryland to NZ, couldn’t have gone any further away!) I was also worried about missing my pets, let’s be honest.

What did you learn while abroad? (Not just in terms of coursework, but about the culture and, cheesy as it is, yourself?)

I learned about different mental healthcare practices through my abnormal psychology class, which I found very interesting. I also learned about the indigenous people to New Zealand, the Māori. About myself, I learned how strong I am and I furthered my passion of traveling!

Palmerston North

Did anything happen that you weren’t expecting? Similarly, were there any moments that particularly struck you while abroad?

I definitely did not expect to meet some of my best friends while abroad. Although we are located all over the place, we still talk often and cannot wait to plan a reunion. There were many twists and turns during my time abroad, but each adventure had its own purpose and lessons.

What are your plans for the future and how will you use what you learned while studying abroad to help you?

Studying abroad helped me to realize my interest in social work through the introduction class I took with one of the best professors I’ve ever had. This class helped me to realize that I would like to pursue child advocacy/family law in order to create change here in America. I would love to go to school in NZ to gain a better and more in-depth understanding of their social work practices, which strive to include all cultures and all people in a respectful manner.

Any advice for other students interested in studying abroad?

Just GO! Studying abroad changed my life and opened up so many doors for me. My time in New Zealand helped me to realize what I would like to pursue after college. I met so many incredible people and I now have an incredible core group of friends spread throughout the United States, as well as an extended family in Palmerston North.

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A Quick Look: Thompson in New Zealand

Rebecca Thompson ’19

During the spring of 2018, I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad in Palmerston North, New Zealand. While abroad I had the chance to take ‘Abnormal and Therapeutic Psychology,’ which gave an interesting overview to how different countries treat different psychological conditions. My favorite part of the class came through the literature review project we had at the end of the semester. I chose to complete my literature review on eating disorders. My future career plans are veering more towards social work and a law degree, but my background in psychology will help me to understand some of the situations my future clients may be going through. My favorite memory while abroad is skydiving from 17,000 feet over Lake Taupo!

Thanks to Rebecca Thompson for providing this cool description of her study abroad experience in Palmerston North, New Zealand! It sounds like an incredible and worthwhile adventure, though we are glad to have you back on campus.

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